World Education will periodically honor outstanding adult educators. Our first featured teacher is Connie Rivera, a Connecticut adult education teacher and professional developer. We asked Connie a series of questions about her work as an adult education teacher.
How did you get started in adult education?
In January, 2002, I wanted to stay home with my daughter after she was born so I took a leave from my daytime teaching job in K-12 and taught GED preparation classes one night a week. Since then I’ve kept adding daughters and classes!
Where and what do you teach and do in adult education now?
I teach GED prep classes and adult basic education; I prepare students in math and science. In reality, it’s mostly math. One of the programs has a large English language learners (ELL) population. The other program is an urban program for low income youth. I also provide professional development for adult numeracy teachers in Connecticut, in Massachusetts, through LINCS, and at various conferences. I’m president-elect for the Adult Numeracy Network.
What are you most proud of as a teacher and trainer?
One of the things I’m most proud of is the unit I created as a YouthBuild Teacher Fellow on the order of operations. I submitted it to Achieve.org’s peer review panel. First, you evaluate the unit yourself with the EQuIP rubric for its alignment with the Common Core. You can submit something larger than a lesson, a unit. Then, the review panel gives you feedback also based on alignment with the Common Core. Next, you then make adjustments to the materials based on their feedback. This review process made me take a hard look at what I had created. It was a lot of work but worth it in the end because it got an exemplar rating. I was really proud of it in the end because the process pushed me to make it better. I’ve been going around and sharing pieces of it so other teachers can use it.
Tell us about your progression from teacher to teacher and professional developer? What did you do to further develop your skills?
My first “aha” moment was when Lynda Ginsburg and Myrna Manly came and provided numeracy professional development in Connecticut. It was inspiring, eye opening. I had no idea math could be like that. This was a year-long professional development initiative that the state had set up. In between Lynda’s visits we took three World Education online numeracy courses. That was really what jump started where I am today.
I remember Myrna said, why don’t you present? It had never occurred to me to share what I was doing in my classroom. A year later, I did. I presented at our state conference. I continued to attend any math professional development I could, especially with outside trainers. I piloted EFF courses. Then Adult Numeracy Instruction (ANI) came to Connecticut. At the last session, we talked about what we would do next. I didn’t know then that the trainers were talking with our state people. It was after ANI that CREC asked me to be more involved and I came on as a consultant for them. That was a few years ago. Now I facilitate Adult Numeracy Instruction.
Even though I mostly choose math professional development, when LINCS sent Steve Quann from World Education to give sessions on creating a website I went because I was interested in creating a class website. I saw it as a way to have continuity for students coming in and out. I enjoyed putting that together to have as a resource for students. This year I’m writing some Tech Tips for Teachers through World Education.
What keeps you in adult education? What are you most passionate/excited about as a teacher and as a trainer?
I want people to have those “aha” moments that I was and am having. I didn’t understand math the first time around. If it’s taught differently, anyone can “do math.” I want them (students and teachers) to have those “aha” moments, too. I feel if I can influence a teacher, they’ll influence more students.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I want to be doing more of the same but probably for fewer places. Five jobs is too many. I did decide not to continue to think about returning to day school (K-12). I love exactly what I’m doing. I’m following my passion.